EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Adrian Peterson is coming back to the Minnesota Vikings less than a week after he was charged with child abuse for using a wooden switch to spank his 4-year-old son.
Peterson, considered one of the best running backs in the NFL, was benched for Sunday’s 30-7 home loss to the New England. Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf said Monday they had decided to bring back Peterson for practices and Sunday’s game at New Orleans “after significant thought, discussion and consideration.”
The Wilfs say they want to let the legal process play out before making any more definitive decisions on Peterson’s future with the only NFL team he has ever played for.
“As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue,” the owners said. “On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved.
“To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child. At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently, we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward.”
He faces an initial court appearance in Conroe, Texas, on Wednesday on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child, which carries penalties of up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Corporal punishment is legal in Texas and non-deadly force against a child by a parent or guardian is permissible. But the punishment is abusive if it causes injury. A blow that leaves a bruise, welt or swelling, or requires medical attention, could be judged abusive. The guidelines also say use of an instrument “is cause for concern.”
Peterson’s attorney said his client has acknowledged striking his son as a form of discipline similar to what Peterson endured as a young boy growing up in Palestine, Texas. He said Peterson was cooperating with the investigation and did not mean to inflict any harm on his son.
Hours later, the Vikings decided not to play Peterson against the Patriots, moving swiftly after a week in which the NFL came under heavy scrutiny for its handling of a domestic violence case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The Vikings clearly see Peterson’s case as different from an abuse case they were confronted with in 2011 involving former cornerback Chris Cook, who was accused of choking his girlfriend. Cook was initially suspended by the team before being reinstated with pay. But the Vikings barred him from all team activities, including games, while the legal process unfolded.
Cook wound up missing 10 games and was eventually acquitted. He never faced discipline from the NFL and played two more seasons with the Vikings before signing with the 49ers.
The NFL is looking into Peterson’s case, and if convicted he could face a minimum six-game suspension under the league’s new tougher domestic abuse policy that was implemented after Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted he botched Rice’s initial punishment.
The Vikings’ decision to reinstate Peterson comes on the same day the NFL announced that three experts in domestic violence will serve as senior advisers to the league. Goodell sent a memo to teams Monday announcing that Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will “help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Later Monday, Peterson released a statement regarding the issue. It read:
My attorney has asked me not to discuss the facts of my pending case. I hope you can respect that request and help me honor it. I very much want the public to hear from me, but I understand that it is not appropriate to talk about the facts in detail at this time. Nevertheless, I want everyone to understand how sorry I feel about the hurt I have brought to my child.I never wanted to be a distraction to the Vikings organization, the Minnesota community or to my teammates. I never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.I voluntarily appeared before the grand jury several weeks ago to answer any and all questions they had. Before my grand jury appearance, I was interviewed by two different police agencies without an attorney. In each of these interviews, I have said the same thing, and that is that I never ever intended to harm my son. I will say the same thing once I have my day in court.I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen. I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child. I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate.I have learned a lot and have had to re-evaluate how I discipline my son going forward. But deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man. I love my son and I will continue to become a better parent and learn from any mistakes I ever make.I am not a perfect son. I am not a perfect husband. I am not a perfect parent, but I am, without a doubt, not a child abuser. I am someone that disciplined his child and did not intend to cause him any injury. No one can understand the hurt that I feel for my son and for the harm I caused him. My goal is always to teach my son right from wrong and that’s what I tried to do that day.
I accept the fact that people feel very strongly about this issue and what they think about my conduct. Regardless of what others think, however, I love my son very much and I will continue to try to become a better father and person.
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